As social media sites liked LinkedIn, FaceBook, Pinterest and others have turned into major traffic directors on the web, there has been a corresponding shift amongst retailers in terms of how they target attracting customer searches.  Strategies are rapidly shifting away from exclusive focus on organic and paid inclusion on search engine result pages on Google, Yahoo, and Bing to more diverse strategies focused on leveraging the power of viral social networks with concentrically connected networks of users that all want to know what the other person is buying.

The recent explosion of in the last several months acutely illustrates this case.  Pinterest allows its users to “Pin” their interest in products or pages on the web, and then share that with their network.  Popular pins can go viral, much in the same way that a funny YouTube video goes viral, or a Tweet can be re-tweeted.  This has resulted in an explosion in redirected traffic from to various retail sites, with clear winners and losers depending on which retailers where able to be the most nimble in terms of leveraging the new trend.

Sites like Pinterest and Facebook are going to be Google’s greatest competitive threat going forward, not Bing or Yahoo.  They will all go head to head as destination URLs where customers will start their searches for products or services.  The viral takeoff of Pinterest outlines a clear trend; customers trust the recommendations of friends and the viral pins of strangers more then they trust Google’s ability to produce infallible search results or Amazon’s recommendation engine.  That makes it a clear requirement for retailers to adopt strategies that accomplish the following:

  1. Find ways to engage with customers through these networks to tap into rapidly evolving viral traffic;
  2. Adopt flexible content delivery platforms that provide for a “publish once, view anywhere” approach;
  3. Move beyond online reviews and recruit trusted advisors with viral followings on social media networks;
  4. Substitute marketing spend away from paid search inclusion and towards penetration of social networking sites;
  5. Provide tools for internal merchandisers that allow for rapid adoption of social media networks to obtain “first-mover” advantage.

Accomplishing the above agenda requires most retailers to drastically alter their focus and investment towards platforms that map to this “Commerce 2.0” approach.  The pyramid has clearly shifted; driving traffic to the home page, transaction handling, implicit personalization, and site funnel management are not nearly as strategic as multi channel content delivery and rapid landing page development.  Retailers must have content publication and production tools that allow them to stay in abreast of and take advantage of rapidly evolving trends like Pinterest or risk missing cashing in on the evolving trends and the corresponding immediate traffic spike along with its long tail.